NPR reports in its “Shots” blog that although “HPV (human papilloma virus) testing is now recommended for women ages 30 to 65,” as the cause of most cervical cancers, “that message hasn’t gotten through to many doctors.” According to a study published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, and covering “833 women between the ages of 30 and 65 who went to five Michigan family medicine clinics from 2008 to 2011,” a minority (39 percent) “of clinicians ordered HPV tests,” while “many still performed annual Pap tests,” and some conducted both “annual Pap tests and HPV tests.”
It also found that while age of the physicians made no difference in the prescription, “female doctors were twice as likely as their male peers to properly prescribe the HPV test.”
The study authors say, “The results also demonstrate that the frequency of HPV testing is increasing over time. Additional interventions should focus on best practices to facilitate appropriate HPV testing to improve cervical cancer screening and long-term outcomes for women.”
Bottom line, we doctors need to do better. And, female patients need to ask for this test.